Men and Women Are Not So Different Shocker!

Posted: November 29, 2011 in Identity, Porn
Tags: , , , ,

‘According to a new study by researchers at Ohio State University, the oft-cited statistic that men think about sex, on average, about once every seven seconds can safely be put to bed—in a college-age population of 163 mixed-gender respondents, the median frequency of sexual thoughts for men was just 19. Women, meanwhile, weren’t far behind at a median of 10 naughty thoughts per day.

The lead author on the study, Dr. Terri Fisher, explained in a press release that the impetus for the research was partly to dispense with the notion that men are slaves to their more carnal instincts, as well as to show that women aren’t so innocent, either.

“It’s amazing the way people will spout off these fake statistics that men think about sex nearly constantly and so much more often than women do,” she said. “When a man hears a statement like that, he might think there’s something wrong with him because he’s not spending that much time thinking about sexuality, and when women hear about this, if they spend significant time thinking about sex they might think there’s something wrong with them.”’

This news confirms what I have thought all along – that men and women are not so different when it comes to our approaches to sex.

Whilst I have some scepticism about all research that aims to ‘measure’ people’s sexual interests and responses, I welcome the findings. I also hope there may be a study soon that shows men are not massively ‘more visual’ than women when it comes to sexual stimulation.

As I have said before, people do not fit the gender binary imposed upon them. And when we try and mould our attitudes to sex(uality) around that binary we fail. This is borne out by the closure of Filament Magazine, which aimed to cater for the ‘female gaze’ on men by women.

I think even the great anti-gender-essentialism thinker, Mark Simpson, sometimes slips into this men v women binary. Here, in trying to show how gay men are not actually that different from straight men in their sexualities (I agree), he ends up creating a mother/other out of women. He says:

‘The real problem with gay men, even the campest variety, is that they’re men. Men without wombs in their lives to take responsibility for or slow them down – or give life a point. But instead, lots of testosterone and spunk and spare time. It’s this that makes them homo. Why do so many gay men have so much sex and take so many drugs, often – and this is something Fanshawe utterly failed to acknowledge – even when they are in a relationship?

Because they can’.

I have had plenty of casual sex in my life, and my womb has not got in the way at all. Simpson forgot for a moment the wise words of his friend Steve Zeeland:

Behavior is an unreliable basis for sexual categories. Desire is immeasurable. Sexual identity is a joke.


  1. marc2020 says:

    This is indeed good news its interesting that the study says that frequency of sexual thought in women correspond nicely with how little or they much they cared about being viewed as socially acceptable.

    Which got me wondering could the reason women don’t think about sex as well as other biological needs such as eating and sleeping as much as men have anything to do with the theory that women are socialised to put others needs before there own and be good girls?

    Don’t get me wrong 10 naughty thoughts per day is still pretty high but hey it could always be higher.

  2. redpesto says:

    Which got me wondering could the reason women don’t think about sex as well as other biological needs such as eating and sleeping as much as men have anything to do with the theory that women are socialised to put others needs before there own and be good girls?

    Yes – but you won’t necessarily catch anyone acknowledging that when it’s easier to simultaneously ‘Blame the Patriarchy’ while arguing that men should behave ‘more like women’ (see QRG’s ‘Whose masculinity is it anyway?’ post). It’s like women and porn: rather than acknowledge that women are socialised into the idea that porn somehow isn’t ‘for them’, way too much political energy is expended on telling women they shouldn’t have anything to do with porn because Nice Gir– sorry, oood feminists shouldn’t be interested in that kind of thing (…which only leads to the Goddess laughing at you).

    • good points both! I think I’m inclined to agree red pesto. The messages from feminism around porn are contradictory and damging.

    • typhonblue says:

      “Yes – but you won’t necessarily catch anyone acknowledging that when it’s easier to simultaneously ‘Blame the Patriarchy’ while arguing that men should behave ‘more like women’”

      Wow, that is a tangle.

      Men should behave more like women but women are forced into behavior that’s oppressive to them.

      So… shouldn’t women act more like ‘unoppressed’ men? Is women’s ‘better’ behavior, thus their ‘better’ morality, entirely due to patriarchal oppression, in which case women are made better people by having been oppressed?

      So if women actually stopped being oppressed they would become just as bad as men and men would no longer be shamefully less moral then women? Yet women’s superior morality was created by men oppressing them in the first place?

      Another question is… Isn’t putting someone else’s ‘needs’ before your own assuming that you actually understand those needs and can provide for them? It’s sort of arrogant, presumptuous and controlling, actually.

      • typhonblue says:

        I mean, if you really think about it… the person who’s learning to ‘put other people’s needs before their own’ is simultaneously holding their needs close to their chest thus avoiding becoming vulnerable to their target, while cultivating dependancy in their target.

        That certainly creates quite the power differential. Add in the capacity for shaming because the abuser tends to the ‘needs’ of her target and… wow.

        • I see what you’re saying typhon but you’ve taken it a bit further with talking about ‘abuse’. I don’t think most women, however ‘socialised’ they have been to tend for husband/family in the past are all abusers!

          • typhonblue says:

            I’m using her as gender-neutral because her/his is cumbersome. 😉

            I’m also poking fun at the idea of the ‘holy mother of god martyr complex’.

      • redpesto says:

        The Cockburn and Oakley article in the Guardian referred to this argument being used in in 1959 – you know, that period of utter hell for women before second-wave feminism came along. Using women’s law-abiding conduct as a benchmark for what men ‘should’ do is a bit of a problem if (a) you use a pre-feminist era as an example; (b) you can’t explain how men managed to behave themselves without feminists to advise them; (c) you want to claim that women’s moral and social conduct now is entirely the result of second-wave feminism – especially when there are so many stereotypes about female ‘gentility’ etc. in the first place.

        • yes it is very convoluted isn’t it redpesto. God that article was awful!

          I noticed in the URL of the piece title it said ‘dangerous masculinity’ but the editors must have ‘toned it down’ to ‘culture of masculinity’.

  3. Tim says:

    -.- What exactly is a thought?

    Is that like a new SI unit that was introduced while I was asleep?
    I mean, what counts as a thought? If I spend 2 minutes thinking about banging someone right here on the kitchen table, does that count as one thought or more? If I return to the exact same thought later on, does that count as a new thought or is it still the same?

    To make a long story short, I think that the number of thoughts per day is really a bad, bad way of measuring interest and libido.

  4. Titfortat says:

    Maybe its a math thing, like, if I think about sex for lets say 3hrs of the day if I divide that up by how many hours there are in a day it might come out to about every 7 seconds. If the math is off, excuse me, I was busy masturbating. 😉

  5. Well, 19 vs 10 is still a 90% increase.

    I also wonder what constitutes a ‘thought.’ I mean, if I’m gaping down someone’s dress, am I really thinking all that much? Is it only thought without stimulus? And if I think to myself that I ought to try writing some erotica, or draw naughtier pictures, am I thinking about sex, even though I didn’t thinking about sex? What about fantasizing about pretty people but not banging them?

    Y’know if a stimulated thought counts as a sexual thought, I wonder if the lower number just reflects lower rates of stimulation. Like, the ladies would think about sex more often if men would spice up their wardrobes a bit, or masculine focal erotic material was being pedaled a little harder.

    Very nice post. 🙂

    • but the numbers are a) small so it’s 90% of not much and b) averages so some women will be thinking about sex 19 times a day and some men 10.

      • True. They’re little numbers. The numbers presented are the medians of each, which should empower the more mediocre answers without completely ignoring the special ones. It also means if one goes over/under frequently it’s no strange thing. (One guy answered 388 – that’s once every 2 1/2 minutes in a 16 hour day. The lady champ answered 140 – still once every seven minutes) I would like to see the actual numbers so I could scope the mean and the mode, though.

  6. typhonblue says:

    @ Jay

    “Y’know if a stimulated thought counts as a sexual thought, I wonder if the lower number just reflects lower rates of stimulation.”

    Yeah, I had that thought as well. How many sexual thoughts would be shaved off the men’s score if all women went around in shapeless smocks?

  7. mcduff says:

    I’m struggling quite a lot to work out what the closure of a print magazine in a recession proves about anything, particularly the thing you claim it proves here. $pread shut down too, I’m not sure that proves sex workers don’t have things to say to other sex workers. It’s a sign of the decline of physical printed media as a valid business model, I guess. Or that marketing requires

    Gotta say this looks like a two step of terrific triviality again. Here’s a trivially true claim (“men and women biologically not as different as claimed by the ‘everybody knows’ school of cultural gender awareness”), and pegged on at the tail end is a personal agenda which not only isn’t supported but can’t be supported, and wouldn’t make any sense anyway (“therefore Filament’s ‘appeal to the female gaze’ experiment wouldn’t have worked because there isn’t a ‘female gaze’ to appeal to”).

    What gets me about your writing is this weird way of extrapolating outside your reasonable point. It’s not enough to write an article about new proof that there’s no such thing as God, you insist on tagging on something about how this shows there’s no such thing as the Catholic Church.

    Of course gender and gendered approaches to sexuality is (mostly) a fiction. That’s why people work so *hard* to make sure everyone obeys the rules. You don’t have massive cultural institutions policing people so that they don’t start questioning authoritarian gravity and floating off.

  8. mcduff says:

    money! Marketing requires money! And cultural penetration too, but mostly money.

  9. @ typhoneblue

    Obviously we need to dress our men much sexier! Or in my case, my me.

    Or, alternatively, if men are already plenty tarty, I wonder if men are conditioned to be more sensitive to the stimulus present. Rather than having a stronger, needier, or more constant sex drive than women, maybe male sexuality has become a bit more oppurtunistic. If we treat female bodies like they’re sexually more powerful than male bodies, and a woman flashing cleavage and/or tummy is considered equatable to a man being completely naked from the waist up, maybe men are quick to fight over sexual scraps that a woman might turn her nose up at.

    Or not. 🙂 Actually, QRG, I’m also a bit confused about the female-gaze magazine failing as evidence that we aren’t different. If men and women are effectively the same in our sexual make-up, and I’m not saying we aren’t, wouldn’t the female-gaze focused magazine work as well for women as a male-gaze focused magazine does for men? Or is that the magazine had its subjects behaving in ways a mens magazine wouldn’t?

    • hi Jay
      The ‘female gaze’ magazine failed I think, because they tried to make out the ‘female gaze’ is specifically different to the ‘male gaze’. So all the metrosexy and including gay porno etc that’s out there, according to them, is not suitable for women.

      But it is. and it has saturated the market so trying to make a magazine based on women only looking at men is going to be hard.

      • mcduff says:

        That’s an incredibly weird conception of the magazine industry. There’s whole shelves full of magazines specifically for niche groups of women and specifically for niche groups of men, many of which repeat the same old tired cliches and images. Cosmo and Marie Clare are pretty female gazey, and they do OK.

        Magazines go under all the time because publishing a magazine in the 21st century is a slightly worse investment strategy than putting all your money in a big pit and setting it on fire. Print media sales are down 20%, or something along those lines. Year on year it’s a dwindling industry. When people who are Conde Nast are slashing their titles because their ad pages have taken a nosedive, people who aren’t Conde Nast don’t really have much chance for their labour of love. And, against this background, we don’t *know* that Filament isn’t closing because it’s losing money hand over fist, but their own statement says things like “rising readership” and “personal reasons”, so it does sound as if it’s more complicated than “there aren’t enough women who buy into the female gaze to make it commercially viable.”

        Magazine readership isn’t about what’s between the pages. The fact that there’s little difference between the neurons of men and women doesn’t mean people don’t *want* there to be, and what you buy is part of the story you tell yourself about who you are. GQ is successful, Men’s Vogue tanked like a stone, even though they’re basically the same shit reheated a slightly different way.

        You could put the same photo in a gay porn magazine or in Filament and it would be a different *image*. It ain’t about the painting, it’s about the gallery.

        • yes well the ‘personal reasons’ didn’t quite wash with me. I have had long chats with the editor of filament and they were really struggling.

          • mcduff says:

            Which in and of itself proves little to nothing, like I say. Magazines are money pits. ID shut down a couple of years ago and I don’t think that proves there are fewer self indulgent design wankers around than there used to be.

  10. typhonblue says:

    “So all the metrosexy and including gay porno etc that’s out there, according to them, is not suitable for women.”

    Well there you go. It probably tanked because it sucked weasel eggs.

  11. @mcduff this is an opinion piece I am not a scientist doing a survey or experiment. I believe that Filament failed, partly because it was based on such a stupid premise. I can’t prove that. Soz.

    • mcduff says:

      Funny how often “I can’t prove the basis for this opinion” is deemed to be a reasonable argument for still holding an opinion, even though you’d think the opposite would be true.

      There’s lots of cognitive science explaining why people’s commitment to deeply held opinions doesn’t bear much relationship to the evidence supporting those opinions. Unsurprisingly, the reasons this behaviour crops up a lot don’t have much to do with people being right all along if only people had just listened to them etc etc.

      Do you think that this research actually shows what your extrapolation to Filament’s demise seems to suggest you think, i.e. not only are men and women are not all that different when it comes to the basics of sexual desire (although I’d argue that’s actually a bone-stupid question anyway), but that there isn’t a large cohort of people who nevertheless believe that they are, and modify their own behaviour so that they can better fit what’s expected of them?

      And if you don’t believe that it shows that, what *has* it got to do with Filament’s demise?

      • I don’t think the research proves why filament ended no. I think it is part of the jigsaw.

        There were not that many people who ‘bought into’ the female gaze idea. Hence the ‘demise’. If it had have been a raging profit machine she would have carried it on.

        Yes there are other factors why it was unsuccessful – bad management? a censorious approach to people who disagree? the use of a crap Live journal website?

  12. Jay Generally says:

    I think the mention of Cosmo and Marie Clare is interesting since they typically have women on the cover. I haven’t cracked one open in years, so I don’t know about the content.

    Now that I get the association to market saturation it does makes a lot of sense. I never thought the explosion of gay porn was exclusively due to gay men alone, anymore than I thought Playgirl’s existance was entirely due to heterosexual women. I think there was an rather starved market niche that sort of accidently got scratched in both instances.

    Personally, I think that sexualized versions of the female gaze, male gaze, and neutral gaze exist, and can be applied to both sexes as the subject of any of said gazes.

    That’s why I consider some of the images posted here in the history of this blog to be homoerotic even though the viewer’s gender is technically uncertain. I think one of the images on the Filament site had a man standing in water looking up at the sky in a rather blissfully reverant matter, with the view being from above and to the side, as if we were seeing someone worship from aside the object of worship. I would title such an image as neutral on gaze since it simply presents ‘man as beautiful’ and neither gender has the market cornered on sneaking a lusty peak from the left side of the Almighty. Elsewhere, an image that suggests the viewer is being snuggled somewhere in the area of the male subject’s chest or is being hoisted up over the male subjects head would be easier applied to a female viewer, so female gaze (heterotic, I suppose.)

    Obviously, even if my opinion was presumed to be correct there is a lot of subjectivity. Women staring coldly down at something crawling around on the floor at the toes of their stilleto heels? I dunno. Sweaty men walking in slow motion away from explosions that seem to somehow blow their hair away from their faces and plaster their clothes against their chests? I dunno.

    Most likely the neutral stack gets rather high, while the female and male gaze are far more specific than people would have us believe.

    A woman with her lips wrapped around a banana or splattered in whip cream with a suspiciously familiar splatter pattern? Het. Change the subject to male? Yeah, not het. But either or both gender could easily enjoy the view. There *could* be a starved market for female gaze material, but since you’d have to have to actively mark the viewer as female, I’d wager the niche is tiny. A suprising # of women seem to actively loathe the unambigous presence of female sexuality and love the omission. Like slash fic writers. I’m not saying there’s no woman who wouldn’t enjoy an image of a handsome man staring enraptured at the area of where the viewer’s rack would be but ah, there’s actually a rather negative meme attached to such activities. Certainly there are romance novel covers and the like where the heaving bosoms of both genders seem to get equal representation, but for an image of a man alone…

    Oi, this turned out to be a long comment!

    • good comment Jay. I don’t read women’s mags either but I am pretty sure they feature many more images of women than men, so the ‘market’ is different than for people who buy filament for the pictures of naked men.

      • Jonathan says:

        Yes, there are many more images of women than men, but these are mostly in the “beauty” category: fashion, cosmetics, hairstyles, beauty treatments, fitness, diets, etc – which is indeed the case in the most recent issue of Cosmo I’ve got (August 2011).

        But there are quite a lot of men too, and these are nearly all in the metrosexy, “eye-candy” category: men with their tops off (and more) looking buff.

        The same issue has two articles on men: The Best Hotties in the Business: “Men so smokin’ you’ll need to turn the page with oven gloves.” And: The Man Manual: “What’s really on his mind” – complete with centrefold Tristan Wilds, naked and looking buff with a strategically placed duvet.

        And then there are articles on: The Porn Ultimatum: “So how does it affect your relationship with a man?” and The Best Sex Position Ever: “Your most-loved move revealed – and how to make it even better”.

        I love Cosmo 😀

    • mcduff says:

      Cosmo and MC are female gaze, but female gaze towards women. It’s part of the inward, self-policing, “how to be a good woman” thing. The mags are targeted to women looking at women, not men looking at women. Filament was trying to do something different and invent something as it went along.

  13. Copyleft says:

    To me, this is discouraging news. It turns out that _neither_ gender is thinking about sex often enough.

  14. mcduff says:

    Uh, a critique of two photos in a single photoset is not exactly a rigorous rejection of a culture-wide phenomenon.

    A norm is not an immutable law. It is a statement of communal desire, not of absolute fact. In fact, that’s why it’s so powerful, because it is not fact, because it is mutable and transgressable, so it requires enforcement. The psychological pathways built while cultural rules are being enforced upon a person are different to those built while that person is learning that one cannot walk through walls or travel backwards in time.

    That some people don’t do something doesn’t mean that most people don’t do it.

    That is, assuming that your “I disagree” was in reference to the part of my comment that I think it was. There were a number of statements there, I guess you could have been disagreeing with any of them. The linked post was more of a tangential aside than a direct address.

  15. ‘The woman as subject, man as object gaze is *extremely* rare compared to the other 3 permutations of gendered gaze in “visual culture”.’

    I disagree with that. My post I linked to is one example to support my point. But I have written about how I don’t believe in a ‘female gaze’ anyway so it doesn’t really matter who is ‘looking’ in contemporary *metrosexual* visual culture.

    And I am not arguing about whether or not culture is metrosexual. If you don’t think it is go and talk to someone else. I’m not interested. Ive provided enough evidence as has Mr Simpson. Try reading his books or something.

    • mcduff says:

      If any given observer is an independent person with self awareness and a personal worldview, i.e. a conscious human, how can it possibly *not* matter who is doing the observing? It matters to *them*! Who are these people observing culture, metrosexual or otherwise, who apparently have no individual personality and no opinion on how they fit into that culture?

      That only makes sense if any given observer is an entirely passive recipient, rather than being an active component of the complex emergent system in their own right. But human beings aren’t just cameras and stenography devices, they’re complex emergent systems in their own right. Of course it matters which particular individual is doing the observing, and particularly on which preconceptions they already hold when they do so.

      • I meant it doesnt matter what gender identity they have these days. Metrosexual imagery invites *all* gazes. I suggest you read Metrosexy by Mark Simpson. Believe it or not he knows more about this stuff than you do.

        • mcduff says:

          And yet marketing people still believe that GQ is for men and Cosmo is for women. Funny how Men’s Vogue crashed even as the metrosexy movement kept going. Almost as if the “Vogue” brand wasn’t appealing to men, somehow.

          • what kind of photos did Men’s Vogue have in it? photos of men? because men need to be told they are looking at photos of men for reasons other than they enjoy it, eg Men’s Health is a ploy to allow men to look at men under the umbrella of ‘health’

          • mcduff says:

            So… it does matter what gender identity someone has as to the kind of publication they will pick up to consume imagery? I’m really not trying to be “smart” here, that genuinely looks like what you’ve just said. Whatever way I read that, it appears to directly contradict the comment before it.

            If “Men” (or the relevant subsection thereof) need to be told a certain kind of thing about themselves and the publication in order to enjoy it, why is this not equally true of “Women” (relevant subsection thereof)?

  16. I am saying it does not matter who is looking, for an image to be (metro)sexy. The metrosexual imagery invites all gazes.

    But people have prejudices. The prejudices of the filament crowd is they won’t look at porn they perceive to be ‘for (gay)men’. The prejudice of men can be they wont look at images of men they perceive as being for their ‘pleasure’ as straight men, unless they have an excuse e.g. buying a product or getting fit etc.

    Im not trying to be smart. But if you are interested in this subject read Mark Simpson. he is the expert.

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